When Sir Jim Rose published his review of the primary curriculum back in April 2009, the Department for Children, Schools and Families (DCSF) described it as "the most fundamental review of the primary curriculum in a decade".
For once, the hyperbole was correct, because Sir Jim's recommendations will fundamentally change teaching and learning in primary schools. One of his most radical proposals was that ICT, along with literacy, numeracy and personal development, should form the core of the new primary curriculum.
This means that for many schools, ICT will move from the periphery to the heart of the curriculum. For many others, it will simply be a confirmation of their present practice.
"Rose raises the bar," says Niel McLean, executive director, institutional workforce and development, at the technology agency Becta. "It's not about learning repetitive tasks, but using the technology to support higher order learning."
Tony Richardson, Becta's executive director, strategy and communications, adds: "The core of Rose is about having higher expectations of what pupils can do by the time they are 11, and that includes being able to find and select information, and use ICT for creative purposes."
Stephen Heppell, professor of new media environments at Bournemouth University, says: "ICT is the key that unlocks the door, and children should be using ICT imaginatively and creatively. The great thing about Rose is that it's not prescriptive."
Reaction to the Rose Review has been generally positive. Brenda Bigland, headteacher at Lent Rise combined school in Buckinghamshire, notes: "Fifteen years ago, our school had three BBC computers; today ICT runs through the school." Its ICT equipment includes class sets of MP3 digital recorders, video-conferencing systems, interactive whiteboards and visualisers. Bigland welcomes the Rose Review.
"ICT is the icing on the cake of education and it's good to see it becoming central to what primary schools do."
Evelyn Baxter, an advanced skills teacher at Rawmarsh Ashwood Primary School in Rotherham, says: "I am very enthusiastic about the potential of the Rose Review. It will give schools which currently do not have much emphasis on ICT the chance to see its potential to enliven and enhance the whole curriculum."
Various teacher associations have also reacted favourably to the Rose Review.
"ICT should be embedded across learning and teaching," says Naace, the ICT teachers' association, in its response to the review. But the organisation is concerned that, as children adapt to technology very quickly, the new curriculum might not be able to keep up with them. It is also concerned that the existing assessment and evaluation systems are too narrow to cope with the way children can use ICT creatively.
Assessment is also an issue for the National Association of Head Teachers. Mick Brookes, its general secretary, says: "Unless they change the way the curriculum is assessed, you'll get more of the same. It's reprehensible that Rose was prevented from commenting on assessment."
Ray Barker, director at the British Educational Suppliers Association (Besa), says: "Uncertainty over a new government, their attitude to funding and whether the Rose Review will really happen are all making primary schools much more cautious about investing in new curriculum resources of all kinds, even though the funding is still there until 2011."
George Muirhead, vice-chair of the National Primary Headteachers' Association, says: "We support the importance that Rose has placed on ICT." But he adds: "Resourcing will be an issue. Secondary schools have traditionally had technicians, but primaries often lack this kind of support. And with public spending cuts on the cards, funding ICT will be a huge challenge. We also accept that some primaries are less convinced that ICT is more important than science."
Barry Harding, headteacher at Leigham Primary School in Plymouth, is one of them. Although his school makes extensive use of ICT (there are PCs and interactive whiteboards in every classroom, for example), he says: "Science is a core subject, and if you reduce its worth by saying it's no longer a core, its emphasis changes. If there's one thing we need, it's more young scientists."
Others are concerned with the burden the new curriculum will place on some teachers.
"Teachers need to be up to speed on what the technology can do and how to apply it in the curriculum - that's a big ask," says Mike Berry, senior lecturer in ICT education at Roehampton University.
Paul Springford, professional officer for Naace, says there is a wide spectrum of teachers, ranging from those who are confident, creative users of ICT in the classroom, to those who are much less so. But he notes that even among the latter group, "you'll find almost every teacher using ICT at home, even if it's just to order goods online or email friends".
Orrell Holgate Primary in Wigan uses lots of ICT, such as wireless laptops, interactive whiteboards and video-conferencing.
"The focus on ICT is a positive step, (but the) DCSF and local authorities need to ensure staff will have a rolling programme of high quality (continuous professional development) to support their understanding of ICT. In such a rapidly developing area, this is a very big challenge," says head Michael Wilson.
He adds that sustainability is another challenge: "How will schools replace hardware every three years and fund the annual software licence costs? Or afford the increasing cost of ICT maintenance and technical support, and the cost of broadband now that the Government has changed the requirements for local authorities to pay half?"
The good news is that there will be lots of support for primary schools. The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) and Becta are likely to provide support materials on their websites.
Local authorities are often another good source of support. Cambridgeshire Education IT Service, for example, has many resources on its Cambridgeshire Progressions in ICT Capability website. The City Learning Centre in Widnes has been running a project which developed a term-based scheme of work that responds to the Rose Report and incorporates ICT into a cross-curricular theme.
"We're keen to get teachers not to see technology as an extra, but as a way to serve the curriculum," says Ray Weaver, Widnes CLC's director of learning.
One primary school in the Wigan CLC project is Simms Cross. Deputy head James Leck says: "We're really enthusiastic about Rose, but an issue we have is that there is a whole world of possibilities out there and it's going to be hard for schools to see what's available - or have the funds to bring it into schools. This project has enabled us to use some fantastic software and equipment which we didn't have."
Paul Springford says that during the lead-up to the start of the new curriculum, schools could examine their learning programmes and identify where ICT can fit into them - "for instance, you might wish to use a graphics program in art".
Becky Senior, an RM education consultant, says: "There is huge potential for ICT to make the transition to the new curriculum easier for schools, such as learning platforms to provide starting points for creative and innovative activity and sharing effective practice between colleagues and schools."
Ms Bigland agrees: "Talk to other teachers and use what's out there - we've put resources on our website that anyone is free to use. Remember, the beginning is always difficult, but you don't have to start with a giant step. Begin with little steps and let the ICT grow naturally in your school."
RECOMMENDATIONS OF THE ROSE REVIEW
These include that:
- Literacy, numeracy, ICT and personal development should form the core of the primary curriculum
- The primary curriculum should have six new areas of learning
- Teachers should receive additional support to help them teach ICT
- There should be a new focus on spoken communication
- Years 6 and 7 pupils should do extended study project work.
TIMETABLE OF EVENTS
April 2009 - Rose Review published
April-July 2009 - QCDA consultation period
November 2009 - Government made decision on final content
January 2010 - First materials available on the National Curriculum website
September 2011 - First teaching of new primary curriculum
- Woodfield Primary School in Plymouth has about 170 pupils and has fully embraced ICT. Indeed, head George Muirhead says ICT is "like a utility".
The school has 60 laptops on a wireless network, and many children carry laptops around with them.
"Thirty years ago, you opened your book. Now, you open your laptop and all your files are there, and so is access to the internet," says Mr Muirhead.
Every classroom has an interactive whiteboard and data projector. The school also uses an interactive voting system.
Mr Muirhead says ICT should be seen as a delivery system and not a standalone subject. "We don't put our pencils in a special room, so why should we put all our ICT in a suite?" he adds.
Robert (not his real name) is a primary teacher in charge of ICT in a school in the Midlands. In his school, he says, ICT is on the verge of collapse due to a lack of strategic vision from the leadership team.
"We have the software, we had the hardware (and) we have a few skilled members," he says. "The difficulty I face is that ICT has been sidelined to such an extent that the quality of teaching and leading is falling on a daily basis."
He adds: "No organisation - including Ofsted - is encouraging or forcing the school into taking ICT seriously."
- Becta (www.becta.org.uk)
- Cambridgeshire Progressions in ICT (http:tinyurl.comybakzdn)
- Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (www.qcda.gov.uk)
- Lent Rise Combined School (www.lentrise.bucks.sch.uk)
- Information on Naace's annual strategic conference in Blackpool from March 16-18, which will include programmes on the Rose Review (www.naace.co.uk910)
- National Curriculum (http:curriculum.qcda.gov.uk)
- RM (suppliers) (www.rm.com)
- Evelyn Baxter's free booklet for primary schools, Skills Progression for ICT (http:tinyurl.comy9bg2nz).